ORIGINAL FICTION: "Climbers" (Chapter Twelve)

Chip Haynes

CHAPTER TWELVE- The Shakiest Gun in the (Mid)West.

Ray backed off after that late night excursion on the 'Net. He needed time to think about all that had happened, and time to figure out what to do next. By getting up early, working like a complete loon and avoiding most caffeine when he could, he was still able to sleep at night. That weird vision of the climber's eyes didn't haunt him nearly as much as he thought it would. But the thought of Lyndon did. What was it that attracted the climbers there? Could he find the man who moved there? Could he even find the town? By the middle of the following week, Ray had found a copy of DeLorme's Illinois Back Roads Atlas & Gazetteer. He could find Lyndon, no problem. By the end of the week, he could find it in his sleep, and occasionally did. Weird dreams.
The big news that next weekend was the pistol. With the mandatory wait waited, Barbara made sure Ray took her back to the downtown Army/Navy store where the gun patiently waited. As almost an afterthought, Barbara picked up two pair of hearing protectors. Those big over-your-ears-like-headphones-from-the-Sixties types. It was only as they were leaving that she told Ray why she wanted them.
"So- You want to try it?"
"What? Right here? In the car? In downtown traffic? You animal."
"No, you idiot. The pistol. Did you want to fire it?"
"OH- The pistol! I thought you meant-"
"I know what you thought I meant. Try thinking of something else."
"Like?"
"Jerry Lewis works for me. You might try Barbara Bush."
"Eeewwww."
"So, it worked. Want to shoot the gun?"
"Well, ok. I guess. I know you really want to."
"You bet."
"Where to, oh Great White Huntress?"
"I've got the directions right here."
The instructions Barbara Meadows pulled out took them out of the city's downtown and into an industrial area on the far side of town. No houses nearby, not even any sort of businesses with any general public appeal. Not a rough neighborhood, really, just a serious one. The range was an indoor one, with the huge vents and fans on the back of the building to get the lead out, so to speak. And those fans were roaring today. They parked the car- there were only a few other cars and trucks in the lot- and gathered up the pistol and all of its accompanying baggage. They both had their hands full, leaving Ray to ponder the viability of this thing in a panic situation. Would he have to round up all this stuff every time he heard a noise? That could be a real pain. Once inside, Barbara took over.
Having thought about it, she decided to try the pistol at just a fifty foot range. Their yard wasn't much more than a hundred feet wide, so this would be a theoretical average. Worked for her, anyway. They signed in, signed the waivers, signed the range rules and mailing list. Writer's cramp was setting in before they could haul their new acquisition down the line to Bay 12- the last one on the far side of the firing line. Ray was wide-eyed as they passed several men, and more than one woman, firing the sort of guns Jake Jacobson would be proud to own- or lose. Great big hand-held cannons that shook the building with every round and put out a muzzle blast like a howitzer. After he heard the first ear-shattering blast from inside the building, Ray was glad to put those ear muffs on in one big hurry. And these weren't coming off any time soon. Barbara knew what to expect, and had her muffs in place before they left the sign-in area. At Bay 12, they dumped out all their gear and Barbara took charge of the situation. The bullets were unpacked and the pistol's magazine loaded. The magazine was returned to the gun and a round chambered. The safety was most definitely on. She checked. Twice. Time to face Ray. Ray, time to face reality:
"Ok, Ray, you ready?"
"Huh?"
"I SAID: YOU READY?"
Ray takes the moment to pull the ear muffs off. These things were working way too good.
"Say what?"
Of course it had to happen: The howitzer two bays down was fired. Ray's eyes watered over. It was painfully loud.
"OWW!"
Those hearing protectors were back on Ray in a muzzle flash.
"Ok, great, Ray- you're going to go first. Just point and squeeze. And remember, no matter what happens, always keep the gun pointed down range at the target. Take your time and aim each shot."
"Huh?"
Oddly enough, Barbara could hear Ray just fine. She knew what to expect at a gun range. Been here. Done that. Doing this again. Ray, on the other hand, was now deaf as a brick. Between that last loud gun blast and the hearing protectors now firmly in place, all he heard was a loud ringing, with an occasional intrusive popping noise in the background. Which is to say he didn't hear a blessed thing. And he had the facial expression to prove it: That guppy feeding time look. Barbara compensated by going on manual. She physically turned Ray around to face the target, put the gun in his outstretched hands, pointed him towards the target and released the safety- very carefully. She then shrugged and pointed at the target. Surely he will get the idea. He did. He squeezed. It fired.
Ok, so maybe it was the surrounding situation: His ears were ringing like fire alarms, the hearing protectors were doing their job and quite frankly he had the smallest gun in the place. I know men don't like to hear that, and the truth hurts, but them’s the facts, Sport. Everyone's was bigger than his. Even the women's. Scary stuff there. So it should come as no surprise that when Ray Meadows fired off that first round, he thought maybe something went wrong and the gun didn't work. No big bang, no great flash. There was a muffled pop that he didn't recognize as being the one from the gun he was holding. That was about it. He might have noticed the gun's recoil if he hadn't been holding it in a white-knuckled death grip and shaking like a leaf. Missing the entire paper target only reinforced his assumption that nothing happened. No effect, no cause. Nothing happened, right?
Ray looked over at Barbara, who couldn't understand his concern. So he missed the target. Big deal. He hit the building, didn't he? That's all that counts at this point. She motioned for him to continue. She made a little hand motion to fire again. Several times. Lots and lots. He got the idea. He had watched the cop shows on TV. He'd seen the Schwarzenegger movies. He could do this. Piece of cake. Especially since the gun didn't work. No need to tell Barbara about that just yet. Ray figured he'd just go at it as though the gun was working and they could sort out the details later. Like all of the extra bullets still in the gun.
He took an over stylized spread-legged, bent-knees stance and held the gun out in front of him with both hands. This is how they do it, right? He then proceeded to point and shoot, shoot, shoot. Just kept squeezing the trigger as though it worked. No problem. Mime target practice, thought Ray. If only. And he was really convinced that nothing was happening. For the most part nothing was, unless you happened to be the now seriously wounded back wall. If paper targets could laugh, this one would be spraying wood pulp out its nose about now. Then there was that last bullet. Ray had managed to miss the target with every round. The ninth one, however, decided to have some fun. No, it didn't hit the target. Not exactly. But it did cream the shiny little metal clip that was holding the target up. Ray never heard it, and honestly didn't even see the clip dissolve into little bits of chrome shrapnel as it was blown into the back wall to join all the lonely lead already there. Ray never saw the pristine target, still basically untouched, float slowly to the floor with just a small bit missing at the top where the clip had been. Ray's attention had been focused on the gun after that last round. He couldn't figure out what was wrong. That whole top thing (that's the slide, Ray.) was stuck back over his hand. That seemed odd. He reached up to see if maybe it was just loose. YOWZA! It wasn't loose, but it was hot! What's going on here? How'd that happen? He looked over at Barbara, who was still looking out at the target and laughing. Yep, this is home security. If they ever get attacked by little steel clips, Ray had them covered. Bet it won't try that again.
Barbara motioned for the now empty pistol, and laid it down on the counter in front of them. She looked around and came up with another clip and target. It only took a minute to fasten them together, hook them on the line and reel the whole thing away for round two. Her turn this time. Ray watched in stunned silence as Barbara pulled out the magazine, refilled it and had it back in the gun in no time. It was only when she chambered that first round and the slide went back to its normal position that it dawned on Ray: The gun was working just fine, thank you. He had been shooting! Frantically, he looked out in front of them for some sign of how he had done. Where did that target go? And what's that paper on the floor? He was lost.
As Ray watched, still oblivious to his own complete lack of fire arms talent, Barbara Meadows did what her family had been doing for years: Calmly putting small bits of metal through larger bits of paper. One- Two- Three- Four- Ray watched Barbara with no thought of trying to see where the bullets were going. Five- Six- Seven- Eight- Nine- and she was done. The slide was back in that weird position again and the gun was back on the counter. Barbara was smiling. Even after all these years, she still had it. Every round in the black. Sure, a couple of them were on the line, but hey- It had been years since she had done this. And she had never done it with some guy standing right there next to her, watching her every move with rapt (if clueless) attention.
The Meadows took turns through the next hour or so, going through that entire first box of ammunition. Ray got better. Even started hitting the target on a regular basis. Never hit the clip again. Barbara was glad to have the chance to shoot again, but also glad she didn't have to. After her third turn, she let Ray use up the rest of the box, content to just watch and offer visually mimed advice. By the end of the session, Ray Meadows COULD hit the broad side of a barn. If it were a big barn, fairly close and attacking slowly. Barbara felt that maybe Ray wouldn't be a complete danger if he really had to use the gun now. A partial danger, yes, always, but a complete danger, no- maybe. As they packed up to leave, Barbara made a mental note to make sure and teach Ray how to clean the gun when they got home. Definitely make that his job. She does the dishes, he does the guns. He should be good at it. He'd better be. Their trip home that afternoon was strangely quiet. Ray's ears were still ringing. He could hear, but he really didn't want to. He'd heard enough for one day.
When they got home, Barbara Meadows made good on that promise to herself. She taught Ray to clean the gun. He even enjoyed it. It gave him a chance to take apart something mechanical and work with dangerous chemicals. What man could resist such an opportunity? It only took about four times longer than if she'd done it herself, but the gun was cleaned and put away. Barbara would pull it out and check it later. Like some time next week, while Ray was at work. After doing that Gun-Cleaning Guy Thing, Ray went for the other Weekend Afternoon Guy Thing- he took a nap. Nothing major, just sacked out on the couch in the living room with the windows wide open and quiet noises of the neighborhood drifting through. He was out like a light, now that all that ringing in his ears was going away. His small little nap turned into Big Snooze City. Barbara Meadows let her little gunslinger sleep.
With Ray safely asleep in the front room, Barbara took this time to work out in her flower gardens. A little weeding here, a little pruning there. It didn't take much to make these flowers look good. She could have left them alone and they would have been fine. But a small investment in time never hurt. Working her way through the flowers along the rear fence, Barbara came to a trembling halt before she got to the end of the row. She couldn't move. All she could do was stare down at the ground. There it was, right there in the dirt between the plants. It had to be. It couldn't be anything else. That three-toed print pressed deep into the soft ground could only be one thing: a climber print. Now what?
She only thought about it for a second, and it honestly never occurred to her to just trowel it over and keep going. She could have. Maybe she should have. But she didn't. All she could think of were the old "In Search Of" shows where guys out west tried to take plaster casts of "Bigfoot's" foot prints from muddy lakesides in bad weather. How'd they do that? Plaster of Paris, wasn't it? They put a ring of something (cardboard?) around the print and poured plaster of Paris into it. Yeah, that's it. Did they even have any plaster here? In the garage or basement? Tough call there. Start with the garage. Don't wake Ray. Not yet, anyway.
Rummaging as quietly as she could through the garage, Barbara found a plastic-lined cardboard box full of white powder. Well, she thought, it's either plaster of Paris or five pounds of cocaine. Either way, it's all we've got and it's going to get used. Making the cardboard ring proved to be the challenge. The first two she made seemed too small. And they were. She was fast running out of cardboard. Time to actually measure that print and plan accordingly. She ended up cutting up the first two tries and combining them with the last extra cardboard for the third attempt. It was big, but it worked, even if it was about forty percent tape. Now, to mix the plaster. She went back to the garage for something- a bucket, a can, just something that would hold water, mix plaster and pour. She ended up with a five gallon plastic bucket. It was big and unwieldy, but it would have to do. She dumped in all the plaster and nearly choked on the resulting white dust cloud. Good news: it was not cocaine. Add water. Make the nasty white cloud go away.
Out at the back yard spigot, Barbara let the water trickle into the bucket of powder as she mixed it with her garden trowel. Hey- this was working! She had the plaster at a nice smooth consistency. Time to pour. She turned off the water and picked up the bucket, cardboard ring and her trowel. She knelt down by the print in that back flower garden and had a good look. May have to trim back a few of these flowers. Better do it quick. How long does it take for this stuff to harden? A few fast snips and she was ready. Barbara pressed the cardboard ring in place around the print and took one long last look. This is it. Now or never. Do or die. Plain or peanut. She poured the plaster into the print, filling it and nearly overflowing the cardboard ring. Whoa- maybe a little much on the plaster there. She stopped pouring and watched the ring of white plaster. The cardboard sagged but held. Could this actually work? Just might. She got up to her feet and thought maybe she'd clean up the bucket and trowel while her little experiment in wildlife observation dried. Nothing else to do. As almost an after thought, Barbara Meadows bent back over and scratched the date into the drying plaster in the flower bed. Was this a date to remember? Weren't they all?
Ray Meadows stayed asleep right up to the point where Barbara opened the garage door. A man, no matter how sound asleep, knows the sound of his own garage door opening. When he heard that door swing open, he knew it was time to get up. He may not have known why, but he knew it was time. Ray got to his feet and padded across the living room to the side windows, where he could get a look back down the drive toward the garage. Barbara was coming out with a box. How nice. Looked like that old plaster of Paris crap. Never could figure out how to get rid of that stuff. Had to buy a five pound box one time when he needed about a thimble full. Couldn't just pour the rest down the drain. Too messy to just chuck in the garbage can. Glad to see she's got a hobby. Wonder what it is. Ray made his way back to the couch and slipped his shoes on. Time to have a look around and see what's going on. Maybe take that wife out to dinner. That might be a pleasant surprise for her. One less meal to cook. Fewer dishes to clean. Yeah, dinner out tonight. That sounds like a plan.
Barbara was coming in the back door to the kitchen just about the time Ray was coming into the kitchen from the front hall. And while it's true she had nothing to hide, you know how it goes: Every time you want to do something without being noticed, you get noticed. Then you feel guilty about the whole thing, even though you aren't really doing anything. Are you? You sure look guilty. So did Barbara Meadows. Now Ray was thinking maybe he should have woken up a little sooner. What was going on out there? What was she up to? And what did she want for dinner?
"Ah- You're up."
"Well, yes. Heard the garage door open. What are you up to?"
"Me?"
"No. The Pope. He's right behind you."
"I'm- uh- making something for you. If it works."
"Out of plaster of Paris? Oh, boy. Can't wait to see this."
"That was sarcasm. I could tell."
"Was it? Are you sure?"
"Ok, wise guy, maybe I won't give it to you when it's done."
"And maybe I won't take you out to dinner."
"You were going to take me out to dinner?"
"You've got something for me?"
"Maybe."
"Same here."
"You go first."
"Oh, no, not at all. You first."
"I insist."
"Ladies first."
"Age before beauty."
"No need to get nasty about it. I was going to take you out to dinner, you know."
"All right, I accept. And when we come back, there'll be a little something for you out in the back yard. Wipe that grin off that face."
"Neighbor's dog running loose again?"
"If he is, he's got funny feet."
"What?"
"Feet like a three-toed shingle ripper. There's a print in my flower bed."
"You found a climber footprint?"
"In the dirt."
"How good?"
"Won't know until the plaster dries. Looked pretty good, though."
"That's incredible! What should we do?"
"Let's go eat. The plaster can dry without us. It will be here when we get back."
From that point on, until they were in the car and out of the driveway, Ray kept looking out to the back yard. Where was it? What did it look like? Would it be there when they got back? Ray questioned Barbara all the way to the restaurant. She had very few answers. She saw it, she recognized it, and she covered it with goo. Maybe they'd have an interesting paper weight later tonight. Ray had driven to Monty's (the neighborhood family pizza parlor) without even thinking about it. They hadn't even gone there all that often, it just seemed like that's where they should go. The moment they walked through that front door, they weren't sure if they hadn't made a big mistake. There were Carol and Jake Jacobson. They saw the Meadows immediately and were enthusiastically waving them over to their table. Come on, kids, let's have some big bore fun. As opposed to big caliber. There was no way out. It was going to be dinner with the Jacobsons tonight. Ray was only able to mutter a heartfelt apology to Barbara under his breath as they went to the table. Oh, well. How long could a dinner last?
"Hey, you two- what are you doing out tonight?"
"I don't know, Jake, I got this crazy idea I'd treat the wife to dinner. You?"
"We're celebrating a victory."
"Ok. Domestic, employment or bowling?"
"Ah… domestic? Jake here got to play Mister Macho last night."
"There's a game we could play, Honey. You know, Village People."
"Shut up, Ray. What happened, Carol?"
"Well- You know how I told you about that prowler?"
"The one you saw in the back yard?"
"Yes, that's the one. Well, Jake got to meet him."
"Whoa. Poor guy."
"You got that right, Buddy. I guess he won't be dancing through our yard in his pajamas anymore."
"You shot him??"
"Nah, you know me. No bullets, remember?"
"So you- what? Jumped out and showed him your baby pictures?"
"You're a mean man, Jake."
"Come on- I just waved my gun at him."
"He was close enough to see it?"
"MY PISTOL, WISE GUY."
"Oh. My mistake. Do tell me more."
"I told Jake I thought I saw someone in the back yard last night. It was just dark, but I was sure I saw some one."
"So I got my gun and snuck out the front door."
"That's what I do when there's a prowler out back."
"I was going to sneak around the house and surprise him."
"And did you?"
"Oh, yeah. Big time."
"He tripped over the garden hose first."
"Yeah, yeah. That too."
"That hose will never slink around your house again, Jake. You're a brave man."
"Laugh while you can, Monkey-Boy. Sure, I stumbled over the hose in the side yard. But I made up for it by running around to the back yard real fast. And there he was, halfway across yard, just watching for me. Must have heard me tangle with the hose."
"So you-"
"So I just ran right at him, waving my piece."
"Don't touch it, Ray."
"Not me. I know better."
"The kid took one look and was gone. Never seen a kid move so fast. Not for minimum wage, anyway."
"Where'd he go, Jake?"
"I don't know. He ran towards some trees and stuff and I just stood there laughing."
"So it was some kid?"
"Yeah, had to be. About maybe four foot- about so high. Skinny little guy playing trick or treat or something."
"But it's not Halloween."
"Smart man. You go to college for that?"
"Nah, just a natural talent I guess."
"What did he look like, Jake? What was he wearing?"
"Like I said- the kid must have been playing at some thing- or wearing pajamas."
"Some kind of outfit or costume?"
"Yeah, I guess so. But I don't know what to call it."
"Lot of weird Saturday morning cartoon characters now."
"I know. What sort of kid watches that stuff? What ever happened to Johnny Quest?"
"I think he and Hadji moved to South Miami. What was this character wearing?"
"Ah, some kind of blue giraffe suit. Looked really dumb. Never seen the cartoon."
Don't you just hate it when the whole world goes boing? Jake continued to expound on his opinion of poor cartoons today and the good ones of days gone by. And how the coyote could have really caught that bird, if only . . . It didn't matter. Neither Ray or Barbara heard a word of it. They were too stunned. This big oaf nearly ran over a climber in his own back yard. Would have probably tried to shoot the thing if he had any bullets. So much for a quiet evening out. So much for their appetite. It was all they could do to make the room stop spinning before Jake stopped talking, but this was Jake. They could take their time with that room spin thing.
As the food arrived and the evening progressed, the topic of conversation shifted to less electrifying subjects. (No pun intended.) Work, home, cars and television- with the occasional side track into the movies. Fairly light stuff for two couples that really didn't dine out together all that often. Safe topics. No politics or religion. And no climbers. By down-playing their response and adding a dose of humor, Ray and Barbara were able to move the subject of conversation away from that incident in the Jacobson's back yard. Keep things moving, and away from that. Jake was happy to talk about anything, or more frequently nothing at all. Both the Meadows and Carol were happy to let Jake carry the conversation- it gave them time to eat.
Poor Jake. He never could figure out why he always seemed to leave a restaurant hungrier than when he arrived. And hoarse, too. Carol, Ray and Barbara had their fill of deep-dish pizza and garlic bread. They were ready to pop. As the waitress was clearing off the table, Jake was scrounging for crumbs- and still talking. It was an interesting evening for all concerned, but all for different reasons. And they would have to get together for dinner again some time. Ray would make sure of it. He wanted to keep an eye on Jake. Ray thought maybe he would need to wrangle an invitation to come over to Jake and Carol's. What sort of trees did they have near their house?
The Meadows' drive home after dinner was filled with amused speculation. They could both just picture that scene in the Jacobson's back yard. Mostly, they could see this giant-sized Barney Fife trying to run through a coil of garden hose and getting increasingly tangled as he tried to get out of it. Waving that empty gun with one hand and wrestling the hose with the other. They were both howling with laughter at the mental picture that scene was painting. Eventually they were able to bring it all under control. Ray did have some questions.
"So, what do you think, Ma'am?"
"I think it's a very good think that Jake Jacobson doesn't own any bullets."
"No joke. But was it the same one?"
"The same climber?"
"Yeah."
"What makes you think you're seeing the same climber?"
"Hmm. Good point. What do you think?"
"I think very few land animals live totally alone- away from all others of its species."
"A profound observation, Mrs. Meadows."
"Thank you. What do you think? Same one?"
"Yes, I think it is. It may not be the only one in town, but I think it's the same one. Like a klutzy, curious kid."
"In bad pajamas."
"Yeah, something like that. As far as Jake's concerned."
"So what about Junior's parents?"
"I'm sure they're around. Just too smooth to be seen. If this one's young, others must be older and wiser."
"Or it's an orphan."
"Yeah, that's a possibility. But I'd be more inclined to say it's just striking out on its own, for whatever reason. It's new at this living alone, and still young enough to be curious about the world. Without other animals of its kind nearby, it would be more likely to go exploring. To seek out new trees-"
"To boldly go?"
"Something like that. Anyway, I think it's the same one. And it's a young one."
"So where's Mom and Dad?"
"Good question."
"Maybe it's time to call Gilbert Lawrence again?"
"No, not yet. There's a couple more cards to play first."
"Such as?"
"How about a weekend in fabulous Lyndon, Illinois?"
"What was second prize?"
"Two weekends."
"A little late on a Saturday night to head across the border for the weekend. It's almost nine o'clock, you know."
"Yeah, I know. Not this weekend. I want to know more about that area before we go there anyway."
"How are you going to learn more without calling the amazing Gilbert ?"
"The other card we haven't played."
"Which would be . . . ?"
"Some English guy named Arthur Crutchfield."
"Who would be . . . ?"
"Not sure. I think he saw climbers in London during the war. Someone's got a web site about him on the 'Net. I guess it's time to surf."
Barbara knew the signs of another late night when she heard them. And she just heard them. The thrill of the chase- and that afternoon nap- would get together with all that pizza and garlic bread to keep Ray up 'til all hours. Good for him. More power to him. But not her. She wasn't about to spend the next six hours sitting there watching a flickering computer screen spit out arcane information for the nearly amused. Maybe she'd take in a late movie on TV and then go to bed. By midnight.
Ray was wired. Ready to surf. Just turn him loose and watch that mouse fly. The car was put away, and they were both in the house and upstairs before Barbara remembered- The footprint. AH-HAH! They both ran back downstairs and out the back door. No thought of stealth, no thought of maybe seeing a climber. Just get out there and get that plaster cast. And they did. The yard lights came on as they flew out the back door looking like two big kids on a high-speed late night Easter egg hunt. They were both headed for that same egg, but only Barbara knew where it was.
It was still there. The plaster was dry, the print was ready to pull out of the ground. With Ray looking over her shoulder, Barbara Meadows carefully pushed the flowers out of the way and reached down to retrieve the casting. How did they do this on TV? She couldn't remember ever seeing this part of the adventure. Did they pull the cardboard off first, or just pick the whole thing up? She went for the whole enchilada, pushing her hands into the dirt around the cardboard and bringing the cast up out of the ground in one move. The resulting shower of dirt destroyed the original print, but it didn't matter. Even before they had a chance to brush off the plaster, they could both see that she had done very well, indeed. A little dirt had fallen into one toe area making a flaw there, but otherwise, it looked great. Now what? Ray stared at the dirt covered print. He could already see the layering of the hoof material on each toe, just like those layered claws he saw on the one in the tree. He shivered. He couldn't help it. It looked nasty, even if these things were supposed to be mostly harmless.
"Wow."
"Yeah."
"Let's get this thing cleaned up and protect it."
"Where to?"
"The basement."
With Barbara carefully cradling the print in both hands, they went back inside and down stairs. The basement was Ray's workshop. A great place to build small projects. Stuff you could carry upstairs and wedge through the door when you were done. Ray's kind of stuff. He wasn't a "Big Project" kind of guy. Small stuff was ok by him. Barbara put the casting on the workbench. Under the clinical glare of the fluorescent lights, they both stood back and looked at it. Proof. They had proof. Proof of what, they weren't sure.
Ray found a small brush and cleaned the dirt off the cast. Then he cleaned the resulting loose dirt off the workbench. He'd sweep it up off the floor later. Sure, he could have cleaned the dirt off over the trash can, but where's the fun in that? The casting went back on to the workbench, on clean newspapers now. Ray rummaged around the shelves of cans to come up with an old quart of varnish. This should protect it. Shaking the can, Ray figured there'd be more than enough in there for the job. He braced the plaster print upside down, suspended above the papers by a few small pieces of wood. First things first- protect the print side. Ray found a clean brush and carefully coated the foot print with varnish. That should help. A little wipe up, a little clean up and he was done. Check that in the morning. Right now, he had a 'Net to surf. The brush was cleaned and dried, and they both gave the plaster casting one long last look before the lights were turned off and they both headed back upstairs. Ray would turn the casting over tomorrow and finish the varnishing on the top side.
Now, while the rest of the neighborhood was settling down for the night, while Barbara (and Carol and Jake) were settling in for an evening with the idiot box, Ray was getting ready to play with his own box of idiots. That modern game of "Hidden & Seek": The Internet, where one step forward and two steps sideways was considered progress. Ray sat down and faced the screen. Power on, boots up. Drivers engaged, Captain. Where to? First (and had he known it at the time, only) stop tonight: A visit with Mister Arthur S. Crutchfield, former loon and current senior authority on the subject at hand: Climbers.

To Be Continued...
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Copyright 1996,2010 Chip Haynes

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